Tim McGregor is an author and screenwriter. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.
Okay, that’s the short version, which @UKMarjie kindly suggested was a little brief. Below is the longer, slightly snarky version
Growing up in the isolated hinterlands of norther Ontario, imagination became an escape hatch. My family owned a tourist camp on a small lake tucked deep inside the wilderness of the Canadian shield. It was fun in the summertime, when the cottages were filled with vacationing families, but the winters were harsh. Remember the Torrance family in The Shining? Cabin fever can be murder and when Dad began obsessively sharpening his favourite axe, everyone learned to sleep with one eye open. That’s when imagination became a life saver; reading, writing and drawing became an outlet to survive mental scurvy.
The writing came to an abrupt halt when I trudged off to university, where I studied English lit and religion, earning a degree in neither. Aspirations of writing were quashed by the hushed veneration of literature where faculty and students alike treated writing like a divinely inspired, mystical art. How could any mere mortal aspire to that?
Dropping out of uni led to the wasteland of the 20s, where subsistence level employment in menial jobs allowed one to stay as inebriated as possible while exploring a myriad of bad relationships. Isn’t that what your 20s are for?
Somewhere in that wasteland I picked up a pencil and began to draw again. Inspired by alternative comics of the time, like Dirty Plotte, Yummy Fur and Eightball, I decided to try my hand at making my own. This was the recession period of the 90s, where a do-it-yourself punk ethos had given rise to a massive zine culture, the Riot Grrl scene and grunge, and a simmering anger at the hypocrisy of a messed up planet. Making weirdo comics was a lot of fun, but I was never happy with the stories I was telling. These were short, often pointless pieces and my attempts at longer narratives were muddled. A friend suggested I study screenwriting to learn some down and dirty storytelling.
The initial plan was to simply apply those techniques to my comic book stories, but, enthralled with the craft of screenwriting itself, I pursued a screwball ambition to write movies. I was fortunate enough to get into the Canadian Film Centre, a fantastic film school that teams up writers, directors, producers and editors each season to work (and fail!) together at making short films before shoving them off into the film industry.
Three produced feature films came out of that period, but along with it came a certain disillusionment. These were low-budget genre movies, made quickly for the straight-to-DVD market at the time. None of which, by the way, I can recommend. Movie-making is a weird, hugely collaborative process that requires a certain amount of people skills to carry one forward. Just as I was questioning if I was truly cut out for it, the financial collapse of 2008 occurred, coinciding with the bottoming out of the DVD market due to file-sharing. All the momentum I had fizzled out as production companies closed up shop and the ones that remained became very selective about new productions.
Scrambling to pitch other projects in a barren field, I started hearing rumblings about self-publishing and the new world of ebooks. Tucked away in a drawer was an unfinished novel and my gut was rumbling to take what I had learned making movies and apply it to a book. Emboldened by writers like J. A. Konrath, who was not only blazing a trail in self-publishing, but was blogging openly about it, I took the plunge. The first novel I wrote (the unfinished novel stayed in the drawer) was an adaptation of the last screenplay I had written; a weird mash-up between detective fiction and werewolf horror called Bad Wolf. It was a strange backward process. Usually screenplays are adapted from novels but I was working the other way around. I often do things backward. The merits of the book aren’t for me to judge, but I was happy with it and took the plunge, releasing it into the world of ebooks that by-passed all traditional routes of publishing.
In a weird way, I’d come full circle. Self-publishing is a metric ton of hard DIY work, just as it was in the bad old days of indie comic books. And pilgrim, this is all learn-as-you-go and sink-or-swim.
I couldn’t be happier.